When 20 year old pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo announced in June that her second album was coming out in September, her fans already projected it to be another hit. After all, her first album, SOUR, had broken records left and right. SOUR was one of the best-selling albums in 2021, became a platinum album four times over, and topped Lady Gaga’s album, The Fame, with the amount of nonconsecutive weeks on the Billboard Top 10 Albums (SOUR spent 52 nonconsecutive weeks; The Fame spent 51 weeks).
Needless to say, Rodrigo’s sophomore album, GUTS, was anticipated to meet or even surpass the success of her debut album. On June 30, the first single off of GUTS, “vampire,” hit the airways— her first piece of music released since SOUR. It instantly became an international number-one hit. In August, the second single, “bad idea right?” came out, also reaching the Billboard Top 10.
Finally, on September 8th, Rodrigo’s highly anticipated second album was finally released to the world. Instantly, it became the number one album on the Billboard charts in its first week; all 12 tracks on the record made it to the top 40.
In a statement, Rodrigo commented on what the thought process was behind GUTS: “This album is a lot about growing pains,” the young singer said. “I felt like I grew 10 years between the ages of 18 and 20.”
Similarly to SOUR, the opening track to GUTS, “all-american b***h” is a pop rock anthem, a song that builds up anticipation for the rest of the album. Lyric-wise, the words reflect Rodrigo’s confident side, commenting about her personal qualities: “I pay attention to things most people ignore…I don’t get angry when I’m pissed/I’m the eternal optimist.”
There’s a smooth transition between the opening song, and the second, “bad idea right?” The second single off of the album is about Rodrigo going back to be with her ex for the night, despite knowing she shouldn’t be seeing him. Musically, the song is yet another upbeat, pop-rock style song: “Seeing you tonight/It’s a bad idea right?”
“vampire,” the third song and first single from GUTS, takes a slight turn from the first two tracks; it begins as a piano ballad about a tragic relationship where her ex-boyfriend has taken everything from Rodrigo, but it crescendos into a more rock style at the end, with loud drums and fast tempo changes, “juxtaposing the lyrics,” according to the artist: “The way you sold me for parts as you sunk your teeth into me.”
The fourth song, “lacy,” is a soft pop hymn, gentler than the previous songs. In an interview with Wired, Rodrigo stated that this song derived from a poem she had written for her college poetry class. The song goes through being jealous and intimidated by the qualities of “lacy,” but still idolizing her and adoring her to a fault. “Lacy, oh Lacy, I just loathe you lately/And I despise my jealous eyes and how hard they fell for you.”
“ballad of a homeschooled girl” goes back to a destructive, rock-style sound and explains Rodrigo’s personal woes with social awkwardness and trying to fit in with her peers, for she was homeschooled as a teenager: “I stumbled all over my words/I made it weird, I made it worse.”
The next track, “making the bed,” is a self-deprecating ballad that reflects how unhappy the singer was with her life after her rise to fame. The title is a play on the saying “you made your bed, and now you must lie in it,” meaning that Rodrigo only has herself to blame for creating a life she is dissatisfied with. “And I’m playing the victim so well in my head/But it’s me who’s been making the bed.”
GUTS’s seventh track “logical,” is a pop song with strong use of the piano, making it a sadder, more tender song.The lyrics discusses the confusion and disarrangement Rodrigo faces when her lover manipulates her and sends mixed messages about their already-ruined relationship. “logical” highlights the irrationality and utter uncertainty of love: “The sky is green/The grass is red/And you mean all the words you said.”
The third single off of the album, “get him back!” is yet another upbeat, poppy song. Rodrigo goes into how she wants to get her ex-boyfriend back, but in two different ways; she wants to get revenge on him for the way he treated her badly while they were together, but she also wants to win him over once more. The song is truly a paradox in which some listeners may be able to relate to: “I want to break his heart/And be the one to stitch it up.”
The ninth track, “love is embarrassing,” is a pop-rock anthem about the twists and turns of teenage romance and how love can be embarrassing when one puts thought and effort into a relationship while the other person never saw it as anything serious to begin with: “Just watch as I crucify myself/For some weird second string/Loser who’s not worth mentioning.”
“the grudge” is a gut-wrenching piano ballad about trying to move on from a past trauma but continuing to hold in all of the pain and resentment towards the other person, no matter how much you want to leave it behind: “I try to be tough/but I want to scream…I say I don’t care/I say that I’m fine/But you know I can’t let it go.”
While holding a more hopeful beat, the lyrics and message of “pretty isn’t pretty” are much deeper. The song goes into how no matter how hard Rodrigo (or anyone for that matter) tries, she can never catch up and meet the beauty standards in today’s society: “Pretty isn’t pretty enough.”
GUTS comes to an emotional end with “teenage dream,” with the title a nod to a lyric in SOUR’s opening track, “brutal:” “I’m so sick of seventeen/Where’s my f*****g teenage dream?” The final song on the album, a true tear-jerker, reveals Olivia Rodrigo’s personal struggles with feeling as if she had grown up too fast, for her latter teenage years were spent working on SOUR and quickly rising to fame. It may also move the listener to reflect on their own life, if they have felt as if their younger years were rushed away: “Will I spend all the rest of my years wishing I could go back?”
As a fan of Olivia Rodrigo’s work, I personally love GUTS. The emotions behind the slower ballads are raw, like much of her work in SOUR, but the fast-tempo pop-rock anthems bring out excitement and fun that wasn’t seen as much in her debut album.
Even if you haven’t been a fan of Olivia Rodrigo’s work in the past, it’s worth it to give GUTS a listen. There is at least one song, one lyric, that hits home with each of her listeners.